Published May 04, 2009Ionela is a Rom (the preferred nomenclature for "Gypsy") living in a Romanian village called Glod. It's a place where women wash their clothes by the riverside and drunks lie in the middle of the road. Ionela would rather be called Carmen, for she yearns to see Spain. At 17, she's already an old maid in this muddy backwater. This place is nowhere and Carmen dreams of getting out.
Her life, and those of her fellow villagers, changes when they learn that Sasha Baron Cohen betrayed them when he filmed his "documentary," Borat, in Glod. In Cohen's movie, Carmen's neighbours are called whores, rapists and abortionists. Speaking no English, they were duped by Borat, plain and simple. The Romanian media flocks to Glod, which greets them with hostility. An American lawyer flies in to enlist the villagers in a $30-million lawsuit; the Glodites dream of instant riches. In a surreal sequence that recalls a scene out of Borat, Carmen's father and two other villagers fly to London where the lawyer instructs them to walk into the offices of Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox and demand compensation.
Carmen never meets Borat and the movie has only a passing influence on the young woman's life. However, in a strange, twisted way, Borat reflects Carmen's deep yearning to see the world and break out of the insular town of Glod, where drinking is the only pastime. This is a filmed portrait, simply told in verité style, about a young woman with dreams. Carmen is smart, sincere and likable. Borat serves to warn her and her villagers that the outside world can be a treacherous place.
Director Mercedes Stalenhoef presents a rich and darkly comic film about dreams and betrayal, greed and pride. This documentary has heart and humour, qualities that the Borats of the world sorely lack. (BBC)